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World Battlefronts: Murder at Oradour

2 minute read
TIME

French headquarters in London told the frightful story:

One afternoon last week trucks loaded with troops of a Waffen SS (armed elite guard) unit drove up to the farm village of Oradour-sur-Glane, in central France. In a few moments the town crier made the rounds, ordered everyone to assemble at the fair grounds.

Terrified women, clutching their children, and sullen, bewildered men hurried to obey the harsh-faced Germans, who had tommy guns at their hips. Old people and invalids were rooted out, sent hobbling after the others.

They did not have to wait long. A German officer ordered all men to stand forward. A helmeted detachment of SS men led them away to a nearby barn. There they were shot, in batches of 20.

The Germans turned to the women & children, ordered them to march into the church. A German helped a young mother carry her eight-day-old baby in its cradle. A school class and its teacher were pushed inside. Finally the Germans carried a large box to the center of the church, went out, locked the doors.

While the women wept and prayed, the Germans methodically went through the village. An hour later, while the flames licked at the last timbers of the village, the time bomb in the box blew up. Of some 800 women & children, only eight survived.

The Germans stayed three days finishing up, throwing the scorched bodies into a ditch, burning everything that stood. Then, on June 13, the Führer Regiment of the Reich Division left Oradour-sur-Glane.

Horror-stricken, the bishop of Limoges read from his pulpit a solemn indictment of the murderers.

But the Germans were not quite finished; there was a last, ironic twist of the screw. Reported the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung: German officials were horrified, too. The elimination of Oradour-sur-Glane was a ghastly mistake —it was really intended for Oradour-sur-Vayres, 15 miles away. Some Germans had been killed there in a Maquis attack.

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